Country's graying population presents opportunities and challenges to Catholic Charities agencies

Catholic Charities USA’s affiliated agencies provide a host of social support services to seniors, including counseling, adult day care, transportation, respite care, home repair and guardianship. 

Candy S. Hill, Catholic Charities USA’s vice president for social policy and government affairs, recently spoke with Our Sunday Visitor about her agency’s programs to assist senior citizens, and how they may be affected as the population’s average age increases. 

Our Sunday Visitor: Is the fact that population is getting older affecting Catholic Charities’ programs or planning strategies in any way? 

Candy S. Hill: Thanks to the advances of modern technology and medicine’s ever-expanding ability to fight diseases that used to be thought incurable, people are living longer than ever before. It’s not uncommon for our agencies to hear stories of 80-year-olds living on their own, participating as active members of their local community. 


But along with these new frontiers, new challenges are presenting themselves. All across the country, caregivers are being forced to provide for not only their own families, but increasingly their parents as well.  

Catholic Charities agencies are responding to the needs of those facing the difficult situation of watching their parents lose their independence. 

Catholic Charities agencies are already providing hospice care, home health care and other services targeted to the aging population, and will continue to address the ever-changing needs of the clients we serve. 

Nationally, Catholic Charities USA’s section of service providers who specialize in aging programs provides an effective way for agencies to share best practices. We also recognize that the changing reality of our country’s population underscores the importance of reaching younger generations of Catholics that have a passion for service. For CCUSA, that has meant a reinvigorated online communications strategy aimed at telling CCUSA’s story and engaging stakeholders through social media and a dynamic digital presence in a different way than we ever have. 

Additionally, we are leveraging a competitive internship program with Catholic colleges and universities such as the University of Notre Dame and The Catholic University of America to create opportunities for students with a passion for service to gain valuable professional experiences by working with us over the summer at our national office, which is located outside of Washington, D.C. 

OSV: Is the aging demographic demanding more resources or energies into any particular areas of assistance? 

Hill: According to CCUSA’s annual survey, in 2011, 14 percent of clients for whom age was identified were seniors — agencies reported a 2 percent increase in senior clients relative to the previous year. We would expect the number of seniors served to continue to increase as the baby boomer generation enters retirement, and we will continue to advocate for vital safety-net programs that assist those on the brink of financial crisis. 

Catholic Charities USA will continue to monitor proposals to alter much-needed programs such as Social Security and Medicare and advocate on behalf of those served by these vital programs. 

OSV: What are or will be the physical needs of this aging population? Housing? Health care? Are they being met? 

Hill: Our 2011 annual survey showed increases in client services to seniors in the following areas (relative to 2010): 

◗ 85 percent increase in seniors receiving refugee services 

◗ 41 percent increase in seniors served by food banks/food pantries 

◗ 39 percent increase in seniors served in health-related services.  

Brian Fraga writes from Massachusetts.

Senior Services
Below is information from Catholic Charities USA’s most recent annual survey that demonstrates the breadth of services the CCUSA network provides to seniors: